"Some old guys running around, still think they've got it" - Umaga

By James Perry

It's been a while since their last game, but some rugby legends are about to make a return to the football field this weekend.

And the reality is beginning to set in for the NZ Barbarians legends team "now we're getting closer to it, around the corner, we're like 'oh sh**'," says Kevin Senio.

The former All Blacks halfback is one of 30 former All Blacks, Internationals and Rugby League stars named to wear the famous red jersey in Hamilton this weekend against a Pacific Legends team. 

While the game is expected to see a winding back of the clock, there is a serious issue lurking in the background. The match aims to raise awareness for Mai Body, Mai Future, a program aimed at health issues that disproportionately affect Māori and Pacific communities. "certainly with some of the stats in and around obesity and diabetes for our Pasifika and Māori communities we thought why not demonstrate something by being active and probably the easiest thing certainly bringing together rugby and rugby league players is to do something in the form of the game," Senio said at the Barbarians clubrooms today, as the team was announced. 

Former Warrior, and Crowd Goes Wild host Wairangi Koopu has also been included to take part in his 'rival' code and says it's a great concept to raise awareness.

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga will coach the Pacific Legends, who include All Blacks Sevens legends DJ Forbes and Tomasi Cama, as well former Wallaby loose-forward Radike Samo. He says with the loss of some very close friends in recent to health issues related to the issues MaiBody MaiFuture address, it's important that Māori and Pasifika people heed the warnings, "our own health, being able to be there for our children as they grow and our grandchildren for as long as we can."

Boxer, and former Kiwi and Toa Samoa rugby league player Monty Betham supports Umaga's plea.

"It's one thing to not worry about yourself, but you've got to think about if you're not there if you're gone. You gotta think about who you leave behind and you want to be a role model," he says.  He, along with Reuben Wiki and Koopu round out the rugby league legends taking part this week in the Barbarians side that will be coached by Sir Michael Jones.

It was the opportunity to play for the likes of Umaga and Sir Michael that saw Koopu jump at the chance to switch codes for the day.

Considered a hard man on the rugby league field during the period where the Warriors were one of the most feared NRL teams, Betham isn't looking forward to coming face to face with some of his Pacific rugby union heroes, "I want to see them," he says, "but I don't want to come into contact. There's some absolute legends. A lot of these guys are guys that I grew up watching and went 'wow'." 

Though their best years are behind them, many of these players still have that competitive nature that promises for a very entertaining match. 

Umaga is forward to what's coming on Saturday, "having a laugh around some old guys running around and still think they've got it possibly," he said.

While Senio is bracing for some heavy attention, "I'm sure you're going to see if not big shots you're going to see late shots, in terms of shoulders on, yeah."

Meanwhile, Betham has one request of his Pacific heroes, "Please take it easy on me. Please take it easy," he said with a wry smile. 

The two teams are:

New Zealand Barbarians Legends Squad:

Mana Ashford, Monty Betham, Jason Chandler, Loki Crichton, Dave Dillon, Rhys Duggan, Ross Filipo,
Troy Flavell, Corey Flynn, Rico Gear, Craig Glendinning, Jarod Hoeata, Tony Koonwaiyou, Tone Kopelani,
Wairangi Koopu, Johnny Leo’o, Slade McFarlane, Cameron McIntyre, Matt Mustchin, Sonny Parker,
Matua Parkinson, Kevin Senio, Chris Smylie, Carlos Spencer, Sherwin Stowers, Rua Tipoki,
Ofisa Tonu’u, Tane Tu’ipolotu, Scott Waldrom, Ruben Wiki

Pacific Legends Squad:

Inoke Afeaki, Tomasi Cama, Graham Dewes, DJ Forbes, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Frank Halai, Jeff Ierome,
Roy Kinikinilau, Nili Latu, Filipo Levi, Lua Lokotui, Laisa Maasi, Deacon Manu, Seilala Mapusua,
Onehunga Mata’uiau, Luke Mealamu, Mikaele Pesamino, Junior Poluleuigaga, John Senio, Semo Sititi,
Hale T Pole, Justin Va’a, To’o Vaega, Samiu Vahafolau, Lesley Vainikolo, Silao Vaisola-Sefo, Tanner Vili,
Gavin Williams, Radike Samo